For the first time ever, I don't have a lingering sadness following the birth of my child. My first three births were all inductions. Strapped to a bed with IVs and tethered to a monitor. And of course since the contractions were so painful, they led to an epidural. And I don't care what they say, pitocin contractions are more painful... I felt I was pressured into my inductions by care providers who wanted my labor to start at their convenience. And whenever I looked back on the memory of their births, I couldn't remember the joy of their much anticipated arrival. A sadness and a sense of longing, guilt, and ultimately grief overtook me. I empathize with c-section mamas who described their feelings about their births because it sounded much like my own. I felt like an observer more than a participant.
I felt robbed.
The strange thing is, it happened after the birth of my first child. Before I knew about natural childbirth, the dangers of induction, and all that jazz... My body instinctively knew what it wanted...
Going into my first labor, while I knew about all the different methods, I hadn't truly researched them. I took the stance of "things may change" (with "things" meaning a lot of different...things) and I'd just handle each situation as it arose. Fast forward to my last birth, I knew what I wanted and what I felt was best for me, but still held onto the realistic expectation that things could change.
I had intended on taking the Hypnobabies at-home course, but at $150 (same price as all birthing classes in my area) it was out of my price range. And even so, with my husband working 12 hours a day, 5 times a week, and sleeping for what seemed like the rest of the time, it just wasn't really doable. Instead, I watched a lot of YouTube videos on hypnosis and natural births and paid close attention to what the women were doing. I bought a $10 mp3 download on Hypnosis for childbirth from Amazon a month before Teagan was born and listened to it almost nightly (I removed two tracks from it though because I found them to be distracting). I rarely made it past the first 5 minutes though. I bought a $30 DVD childbirth class to watch with my husband. I didn't really come away with any new information, but having been through it three times and having several years to do my own research, it kinda takes away all the surprises.
What worried me most was how I was going to respond to the pain from the contractions and how was I going to alleviate the pain. Having only experienced pitocin induced contractions I was unsure of what real contractions felt like. I did lots of Googling and (again) lots of YouTubing to try to find out what worked for other women. I bought some massage tools and lotions and even some LED candles. I admittedly got frustrated several times because since I knew I was going to be at least laboring in the water I didn't truly know what I would need or even if I would want it. I spent so much money in trying to prepare for my ideal birth and come to find out I didn't need any of it. I'm not disappointed in the least because I rocked that shit! All I needed was the water, the ability to move as I saw fit, and the support of those who I knew loved me.
I know this is going to sound absurd, but my labor didn't hurt. The pain level I woke up with was about the same as when it came time to push. Less, actually. I awoke with a 6, peaked at a 7, and pushed at a 4 (based on the smiley face hospital scale of pain). I didn't even think I was in labor when I woke up because my contractions felt like Braxton hicks. They acted like it, too. The only red flags were that they got worse whenever I walked and wouldn't go away unless I stopped. They were the worst when I was sitting in the bed being monitored to see if it was safe to get in the water. During that time, her heart rate dropped really low and I became more focused on the concerns that were racing through my mind than I was on the deep breathing. And all I ever truly felt was pressure, like I ate a bowling ball... That feeling didn't ever seem to go away though, until I started visualizing her descent.
After she was born, I felt so empowered. I was proud to be among the women who've been giving birth on their own for centuries. I feel like I didn't just have a baby, I birthed a baby. And I feel so fortunate that I was under the care of doctors and midwives who trusted my body to do so. This was the feeling I was missing. This was the feeling that all those drugs, monitors, and IVs got in the way of.
My recovery hasn't gone so well, though. Two or three days after the birth, I started limping really badly due to pubis symphysis. Nothing's shown up on the X-ray, conveniently making myself feel crazy (this happens a lot to me...tests showing nothing's wrong when my body says there is). It's gotten a little better in the 6 weeks since she was born, but not much. My mother-in-law came to visit and her response was, "That's what you get for going natural!" She was always quite negative about my decision to go natural. A lot of people were. I don't let it bring me down, though; nothing in the world can change the way I feel.
My advice to other women who may share my feelings or those who desire a natural birth: go for it. You won't regret it. Fight for it, because it's worth it. Don't allow others to bring you down. Don't feel bad about not being able to afford birthing classes or a doula, there are other means that are inexpensive or even free. I thought I needed Hypnobabies, but with YouTube, Google, and a couple free self-hypnosis apps on Android I was able to get around it (I plan on doing a post in the future about this). I also suggest in looking for a doula in training for those who cannot afford one as they will attend your birth free or at a lower cost. Alternatively, you can ask a friend or family member to act as one. One of the reasons I asked my friend to attend Teagan's birth was because she had been through a natural birth. She hadn't intended to, but just knowing that she had experienced a natural birth helped me mentally. And ultimately, trust your body. It was made for creating and bringing forth life.